More of the "Things in Windows" series. No, I can't explain this picture.
More of the “Things in Windows” series. No, I can’t explain this picture.
Another of the "Things in Windows" series. At least i Get the voodoo idea.
Another of the “Things in Windows” series. At least I get the Voodoo idea.

Well. I’m back to it. More pictures about… well, maybe nothing. Or, maybe I’m working something out . In my head. Who knows. I try not to think very hard about that stuff. It’ll make you crazy. Or, crazier. There’s enough crazy around for all of us. So, most times I just try to record what I see. When I look at window dressings like this, I realize that my notion of there being “enough crazy for all of us,” is probably pretty much right on.

Anyway. One of the reasons I like walking around The French Quarter at night is because stuff like this just pops out. You don’t even have to be looking very hard for it. It’s just there. Right in front of you. Yes. I know. It really is someone else’s art. I put a little spin on it, but it’s not really mine. Most of my spin comes not in the photographing of it. It comes in post production, even when my post isn’t all that heavy.

A few bits of housekeeping. I have about 40 or so long, long blogs that I wrote for hub. I’ve decided that their style is not for me. They seem to equate long with good. I come from the Mark Twain school of thought. You know. He once said something like, I’m sorry this letter is so long. If I’d had more time it would have been much shorter. So…. These hubs are all “how too” posts. A few of you have read them and seem to like them. More, importantly, they are my content. I can do what I like with them. I’m going to move them here. To Storyteller. Where they belong. I’m thinking that I’ll post one a week. Probably on Sunday. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m taking a short cut. Nah. They are easy to move. Just a little cut and paste. But, they need to be reformatted. Pictures must be placed where they belong and make sense. It’ll probably take me as long to do that as it did for me to write them. And, unless I really want to take a shortcut, I’ll have to research or make new pictures since you’ve already seen them in one form or another. If there is one thing that I try to hold to on Storyteller is that I do not repeat my images. Sometimes, I come close. But, that’s just because I tend to travel in only a few circles… at least when I’m in New Orleans.

Anyway. Something a little new. Probably tomorrow.


Cement steps are all that is  left.
Cement steps are all that is left.
After the storm waters reeded, owners gutted. This house never proceeded beyond that.
After the storm waters reeded, owners gutted. This house never proceeded beyond that.
Nature always fills a vacuum. Apparently, so do taggers.
Nature always fills a vacuum. Apparently, so do taggers.
Some houses still bear the marks of early responders.
Some houses still bear the marks of early responders.

L9 7

A tagger with a sense of humor. This pretty much says it all.
A tagger with a sense of humor. This pretty much says it all

… mean a lot. Okay. I borrowed that line from a Neil Young song called, “Fork in the Road.” It’s an angry song. He wrote it at the depth of the recession. It’s worth listening to. It’s what I was listening to when I drove through as much of The lower Ninth Ward as I could. It took almost five hours. I made pictures. I talked to people. I looked and I saw. I reflected. I said a prayer. No matter what, I’m still here. Thanks.

What did I see? I started on the river side of the area. A lot of progress has been made there. But, anything on the river side of St. Claude Avenue did not get leveled by the storm. The neighborhood is called Holy Cross, after a church and school that were located there. They moved to Gentilly. But, the neighborhood still stands. I made my way across St. Claude and things began to change. That neighborhood still wasn’t turned upside down, as it was closer to the lake. Lots of work has been done. But, there is still a lot more work to be done. But, one of our local legends is back in his home. Fats Domino is home. His house still hasn’t been completely been refinished, but he’s still there. Like me.

Then I crossed over Claiborne Avenue to the area of The Lower Ninth Ward that you saw on CNN. It was completely destroyed. The first time that I saw it after the storm, I was stunned. My neighbor in The Seventh Ward, Mr. Joe, told me not to go there. When I returned back to our neighborhood, I almost couldn’t talk. Mr. Joe looked at me and said, “I knew it. Like a moth to a flame…” as he put his arm around me. But, that was eight years ago. Things change.

Yes. Things change. The Lower 9th Ward laid fallow for a bit. Actor Brad Pitt came to the rescue. He founded a group called Make It Right. He used his own money as seed money. A few very modern, green houses began to appear. That was a few years ago. That few grew. Today, there is a little neighborhood. Other builders are working there as well. A couple of the streets have been paved, which is great because the storm waters left the street worse than dirt roads. Driving on them feels like you are riding in a boat in very choppy water. Finally, things are looking a little more hopeful. But, you can’t eat hope. You have to work.

So. My pictures. They are accurate. They are what I saw. I suppose that I’m still trying to build support for the area. But, they don’t show the whole picture. Why not? Well, I was working at the wrong time of day. Yeah. That’s a good excuse. But, seriously, I really didn’t know how to make the picture. The one picture that tells the whole story in one image. I do now. I just have to ask permission to walk up the Claiborne Avenue Bridge and shoot down on the area. Getting permission shouldn’t be too hard. The bridge is closed for repairs. It will be until October. I need low light and a high point of view. I think I can get it from the bridge. I don’t have to cross the bridge. That’s good. I really don’t want to fall in the canal.

That said, my pictures are memorials. That’s it.

It’s a funny thing about these bits of history. Even the people who live in brand new contemporary houses have left the bits of steps and stoops alone.  It’s their own personal memorial. They also mow the lawns of houses that “ain’t der no mo’.” And, in many places, they leave the circle and cross spray painted signs that indicate who checked the house for bodies and when they did that, on the front of their houses. Some people have even turned those into little bits of folk art. Perhaps, the saddest bit of folk art left in front a house in that group of new houses. There are steps and two little grave markers. One for a daughter and one for her grandmother. A year or so ago, I stopped to photograph it. A man came out of his house. We talked. I asked if I could make his picture. He said sure. He told me about those markers. His daughter. His mom. I can tell you this. It’s very hard to look through a viewfinder when there are tears in your eyes.

Time fades away.

NOAA radar map of Hurricane Katrina as it approaches New Orleans.
NOAA radar map of Hurricane Katrina as it approaches New Orleans. Map courtesy NOAA.
Flooded New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina
Flooded New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Photo courtesy FEMA via Wiki Commons
National Guardsman looks over the flooded New Orleans.
National Guardsman looks over the flooded New Orleans. Photo courtesy of the DOD
Desroyed houses along the London Street Canal.
 along the London Street Canal. Photo courtesy Wiki Commons
Chalmette Hurricane Katrina destruction.
Chalmette Hurricane Katrina destruction. Photo courtesy FEMA via Wiki Commons.

Eight years. Funny how time flies. As you know, I rarely publish pictures or words that aren’t mine. I do that for a number of reasons. Most of them are mostly about artistic integrity. Some are for legal reasons. Others are simply because I don’t see the point in aggregating or curating other’s work. There are plenty of other bloggers who do that. And, they do that well. After all, I produce my own work. I do not see a time when I’ll stop. It’s what I do. But, every now and then, a moment  comes when I either have to commemorate it or reflect on it… something that was so terrible that I must move beyond the limited scope of my work. I hope that you understand.

August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina made landfall at Buras, Louisiana. It headed towards New Orleans . It rained hard. The winds blew hard. The levees broke. And, the city flooded. So, did much of the region. You know the rest.  We suffered as a neighborhood. We suffered as a city. We suffered as a state. We suffered as a region. We suffered as a country. It’s all history. I’m not here to rehash anything. I’m just here to remember… and reflect. And, think.  Nothing else. At the end of the day, I’ve moved on. I’ve worked hard. I moved to New Mexico for some years.  I returned.  To New Orleans. The call of my adopted home was just too strong. I lost some things. And, I gained others. I can tell you that the things that I lost were not important. They things I gained are far more precious.

Later today, there will be bell ringing ceremony, a moment of silence and the scattering of flowers on the water.  But, I won’t be  attending. It’s not that important to me. Instead, I will be photographing in The Lower Ninth Ward. It is there that people suffered as much or more than the other neighborhood in New Orleans. Today, it’s pretty quiet in the area closest to the canal. A few people have returned. They live in homes that they had built or that were built by actor Brad Pitt’s Make it Right organization.  Much of the area has returned to nature. We have a phrase, “it ain’t der no mo’. ” Well , for the most part, the Lower Ninth Ward — at least on the lake side of Claiborne Avenue – ain’t der no mo. To be sure, much of New Orleans has returned and recovered, perhaps better than before the storm.  New construction abounds. More new  people have moved to the city. They seem to be helping us. They are young. They are energetic. They are helping to shape things that are good for the city. But, things are different. My friends say that. I feel it. That’s okay. Eventually, I’ll feel more at home. Things change. And, that’s good.

These pictures. First off,  let me be very clear. I didn’t make, take, photograph, capture or snap any of the pictures that you see in front of you. Nor, are they the most memorable or famous pictures that were produced in the days, weeks, months and years that followed. Here’s why. The very best storytelling images are owned by the photographers who made them. Their rights are protected.  As they should be. The images on this post are memorable because they document the after effects of the storm. Most are not well-known. Besides, I’m a photographer. Some say I’m an artist. I don’t like it when somebody steals — er, borrows — my work. So. I won’t do it to someone else. These pictures were curated from images provided by Wiki Commons, NOAA, FEMA or the DOD. The short of it is simple. I already own them. So do you. So does every United States citizen.  They are ours. Well, the exception is Wiki. But, their contributors are generous enough to share them and the rules of Creative Commons. Look at them, enjoy them. Think about them They are all part of our collective memories.

A studio in monochrome. Silver beads on dark gray.
A study in monochrome. Silver beads on dark gray.

A monochromatic study. I made this image on one of my evening walks through The French Quarter. I know, I know. You don’t usually think of The Quarter this way. We usually tend to think of The Quarter as being very colorful. For the most part, it is. I think that’s why this picture reached out and grabbed me. It isn’t colorful. I wasn’t overwhelmed with color. No sensory overload. Just various shades of gray. No, not fifty. And it’s silver. Although I’m willing to bet that those beads did not start out life as being silver. They probably once were colorful. But, constant sunlight has done its work and caused the color to fade and the beads to change to their basic color. Silver.

This picture. Not much. See it. Shoot it. But, it is in a window. So, I used an old trick. I took the sun shade off of the lens and pressed the lens right up against the window pane. No reflections. No distortion. Post production was minimal. Just a little fine tuning, sharpening and I added a little touch of blue. Why? Because pictures made in deep shadow have a blue cast to them. But, often digital sensors tend to clean that out. So, I made the image more like how I first saw it.

Tagging, tagging. Everywhere tagging.
Tagging, tagging. Everywhere tagging.

A tagging we will go, a tagging we will go. Well, not me. I don’t tag stuff. But, somebody in New Orleans does. Probably a whole lot of some bodies. I just think that if you leave something in one place long enough, a tagger will find it and work his art. Art, in this case, being a relative term. I fully agree that some graffiti can be art. But, this ain’t an example of it. I did make a picture of a mural a block or so away, but I’m loath to publish it, since it really is art and I don’t have permission to use it. That said…

This picture.  As you know, I often make pictures on the way to some place else. I was returning from photographing Amelie Alley. But, I took the long way around. After all, you never know. A picture might rise up and scream “take me, take me.” I looked at this scene, which was already in low twilight and that yellow did just that. It was hollering at me. So. I stopped. Looked around and made the picture. It’s not that much of a picture. In truth, it is a rental trailer parked on the street. Likely, it’s been there for a long time… which is what attracted the “street artist.” When I returned home, and looked at the picture I realized that it need some help.  As you know, I’ve been experimenting with cinematic approaches. This appeared to be a good time to try a few. So, I added some OnOne actions and this image is the result. This picture may very well be more about the post production than the actual work in the field.

Walking and photographing at night makes for some interesting motion studies.
Walking and photographing at night makes for some interesting motion studies.

I’ve said this repeatedly; walking through a neighborhood is still the best way to make “discovered” pictures. When you walk you see it. And, it really is just that simple. You also take the time to experiment. I dis just that with this picture. These days, and with all things digital, sharpness seems to be the thing. It isn’t though. Anyone can crank their ISO up to a billion, turn night into day and keep every part of the picture razor-sharp. Yeah, sure, you’ll likely introduce some bad things into your picture. Maybe a little noise. Maybe a little purple fringing. But, hey, you got it sharp.

The real trick is to work at slow ISOs, with a not wide open aperture and let the camera do its thing. That’s when the magic happens. That’s when the technology of the camera sees things that my eye can’t see. This is one of those pictures. It’s handheld at about 1/4 second at f5.6. How do I know it’s f 5.6? An old mentor taught me to work at that setting when I was photographing at night. So, that’s where I generally work. What is the bit of magic? The legs. I was mainly focused on the yellow bike at night. I could see people moving around in the corner of my eye. But, I didn’t realize they were walking through the picture. They were. And, they helped to complete the picture.

Oh. Where was this picture made. On Esplanade, a street the passes in between The French Quarter and The Marigny. I often forget to work in The Marigny at night. That’s bad. There is a lot more local energy there.

Sometimes, it's not all color.
Sometimes, it’s not all color.

Hmmm.  Yesterday’s post was mostly about nature’s work. I showed you a very brightly colored picture. I responded to a very complimentary comment that I was just the conduit. Sometimes, when I make a picture that really strikes a chord, I’m pretty sure that’s all I am. I could go way deeper into this. But, that’s a whole other story. Maybe, for another time…

So. This is a picture that I made right after all — or at least, most — of the color left the sky. Next stop as early evening and then blackness.  The building? It’s a little bit odd. A building with a metal shade like that usually means that at one time, it was not only a house, but somebody’s business. Usually a “food  store.” It may well have been. But, usually that means a diagonal door way set into the corner of the building parallel to the sidewalk corner. This building doesn’t have that. It could have been modified. Or, one of those giant windows could have a door. Or, it may not have ever been a business at all.

The picture. Well, it did  take a little doing. I really didn’t expect to be working at this time of day. So, it’s hand held. No tripod. Luckily, for those little baby -sized Sony NEXs, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. ISO 1600? No problem.


Sunset over Desire street in The Bywater.
Sunset over Desire street in The Bywater.

A Streetcar Named Desire. Yep. This is the street where the line ended after making its way from The French Quarter. It connected a lot of service people with their work at hotels and restaurants  in The Quarter. It was replaced by buses in 1948. For more about that, go here.

As you know by now, I make a lot of pictures on the way to some place else. I made this one on my failed attempt to find Rosalie Alley. While I was wandering around almost aimlessly, the sunset light did its amazing thing.  It turned  yellowish, then it bright orange. You saw that a couple of posts ago. Then, it turned sort of lavender. Not only did the sky turn lavender, but the light was powerful enough to reflect off of just about every possible surface.  That’s what you are seeing here. This is not the result of a magenta filter, which used to be so common in the 1980s and 90s. This is the real thing. That’s not to say that I didn’t help it out some in post production. But, no so much as to make it an  unreal color, just to clean it up some.

A trip to Rosalie Alley reveal a lot of signs and symbols about voodoo.
A trip to Rosalie Alley reveal a lot of signs and symbols about voodoo.
A very old gate post.
A very old gate post.
Hearts and snakes. What could be more exciting?
Hearts and snakes. What could be more exciting?

More images from Rosalie Alley. I guess that I could stop right there. But, you know me.

Two things to know. One. I promised myself I wouldn’t post very many multiple image blogs. It seems that they are just a little too much to look at in one go. But, after looking at the many detail images I made here, there seems to be no way around it. You can’t get a feeling for the place looking at one image at a time. Two. Just dropping into a place doesn’t really work. I’ve known this for a long time. But, this shoot and take reminded me of it.  Strongly. There are signs and symbols all over the place. But, there were no people. Despite the rumors and stories, nobody was around practicing voodoo, or its evil cousin, hoodoo. Quite frankly, I have no idea if what I read and heard is true. But, in order to really know, I’d have to hang out there a lot. And, at all times of day and year. I guess that I could. I probably will for a while. This places intrigues me. There is a real sense of history there. Well, there is history throughout most of New Orleans. How could there not be? But, this place has a very odd vibe. Even in daylight.

We’ll just have to see.

The pictures. Well, two of them are about voodoo. Or, hoodoo. I’m not well enough versed about those practices to be able to tell the difference. All I know is that voodoo is good. Hoodoo, bad.  The third picture is a detail of an old wrought iron gate post. I have gate posts where I live now. I had gate posts where I lived on Esplanade Ridge before the storm.  Those were the older of the two. That house was built in 1837. The gate posts were added in 1888. This detail pre-dates that. I don’t know by how much. A lot, I’m guessing. You can see what it represents. It is an upside down horseshoe. It keeps the luck from flowing out and away. I bet you think that I don’t know that. Ha! I’m full of useless information.